The Reverend Richard responds:

All right, I will give a limited response for the purpose of saving space. I will attempt to give you a brief summary as to why as Protestants, we reject this interpretation of Scripture. The Scriptures you cited do come from the first century and I would affirm that it would have been very easy for many early Christians to eventually interpret them as you do! However, it is necessary to look at the entire context, and also to consider the possible early biases which the Early Church Fathers used when they came to the conclusion that the bread and cup somehow became the literal body and blood of Christ.

Here is a set of sayings from Paul to the church at Corinth which you provided. Since they are in the same chapter, we'll treat them together:

<< 1Co 10:16 Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?

1Co 11:24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me."

1Co 11:27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.

1Co 11:29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not recognize the body.>>

The sharing of the bread and cup as a sharing in the body and blood of Christ, I would agree, originates from the Lord Himself. However, the passage you cited in 1 Cor. 10:16 is in the context of idolatrous feasts. The Corinthians apparently had been participating in feasts wherein animals were sacrificed to idols. Paul forbade the Corinthian Christian community to do this, since the sacrifices offered on the pagan altars were to demons and Christians couldn't both partake of the Christian feast and the pagan feast. The entire context of chapter 10 bears this out. Paul wasn't giving us an elaborate doctrine of transubstantiatian in this text at all. In fact, the main point of the bread and cup used to celebrate the Lord's personal sacrifice had nothing to do with those elements of bread and wine changing to literal flesh and blood, but rather the COMMUNAL element of the Eucharist itself. In other words, Paul in 10:17 affirms that to partake in the Eucharist (bread and wine, the obvious reference to the Lord's supper) is to affirm the ONENESS of the "body" of Christ, which is the church, literally composed of many people, but together called one "body." As any Pauline scholar knows, the phrase "body of Christ" is analogous to the Christian community who is united in recognizing Jesus as the Son of God. If the bread and cup of wine are LITERALLY the body and blood of Christ as you say, why wouldn't the Christian Church also be the literal body of Christ, too? Did not Paul say this??? From 10:17, I can argue that he did! I'm almost positive that you don't believe that! I can make the passage mean this, if I wanted to stretch it out as you have done! In all fairness, I do see the bread as a reference to Christ's body, and the cup as a reference to Christ's blood, but just not literally. It is entirely possible that the Gentile Christian community from the earliest days of the church had this interpretation also, but remember-the early church was Jewish, not Gentile. The Jewish culture and religious community forbad the literal eating of human flesh and blood. (Leviticus 17:10) Gentile Christians often did not feel bound by Jewish ideas from the Old Testament.

Please note also, that Paul later said in the next chapter of 1 Corinthians you cited, that he still considered the bread to be "bread," and the cup to be a "cup." 1 Cor. 11:28. As for recognizing the "body" in 1 Cor. 11:29, Paul affirmed that the manner of partaking of the bread and cup, rather than the participant, is what should be "worthy." The Corinthians were getting drunk at the feasts where they also celebrated the Eucharist. Most commentators agree that the early church had feasts along with their Eucharistic celebrations, and at Corinth, they were making a mockery of Christ when they got drunk at their church feasts, and thus partook of the Eucharist in an unworthy manner. They blasphemed against the body and blood of Christ when they also partook of debauchery, and thus they didn't recognize the body of Christ. This doesn't mean that it was "sinful" if they (or we) didn't recognize a doctrine of transubstantiatian. However, this raises a related issue for Roman Catholicism. The Corinthians ostensibly had a several course meal along with the Eucharist. Does not modern Roman Catholic practice forbid the eating of ordinary foods for at least an hour before allowing communicants the eating of the Eucharist? Apparently, Paul didn't forbid such a practice.

I'll briefly address the passages from John's Gospel.

<< John

6:35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty.51 >>

John's Gospel is the PERFECT place to find where it explains itself! The passage from 6:35 refutes your own position. If we are to take the bread and wine as LITERALLY being the flesh and blood of Christ, then why isn't 6:35 literally true also? When you came to Christ, did you stop going hungry and thirsty? I doubt it; in fact you probably eat and drink daily as is normal human function. 6:35 explains what 6:54 means: "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in flesh is real food and my blood is real drink." The Protestant understanding of this verse is in the light of verse 35 that you cited. The "eating" of Christ's flesh is "coming to him," and the "drinking" of his blood is "believing" in him. If you do these two things, you have "eaten" his "flesh" and "drank" his "blood," and you will NEVER hunger or thirst spiritually again. Remember that the Gospel of John is the MOST metaphorical of all of the Gospels. If you must take the bread and wine to be literal flesh and blood because of John 6:55, then you must take Jesus to be a literal gate, because Jesus said in 10:7, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep," yet Jesus would contradict himself in verses 11 and 14 wherein he said that he was "the good shepherd." Is Jesus now a gate with hinges, or a Bedouin tribesman with a staff? Of course not, these were analogies. Likewise, there is no contextual reason to interpret the Eucharistic passages of John chapter 6 as literal, either. In John 15:1, he also called himself "the true vine." Must this mean that Jesus is now an Ernest and Julio Gallo wine vineyard? Confusing the symbolic words of Jesus with literal ones isn't new; the disciples in the Gospel of John had the same problem. Consider the account in chapter 11:11 preceding the resurrection of Lazarus. Jesus stated "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going to wake him up." His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly,"Lazarus is dead..." You see, many of the Early Church Fathers, no doubt sincere, failed to understand grammar, context, and they read the Scriptures in the light of Aristotle rather than in the light of how Judaism would have possibly understood them.

My friend, I would caution you to listen more carefully to the words of the Lord who you profess to serve. In fact, it was a misunderstanding of Jesus' words which were used against him at his trial. St. John's Gospel is the only place where we hear what was actually said, in 2:19 "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." Verse 21 tells us that the "temple" he spoke of was his body, not Herod's literal temple. This correct understanding didn't stop his accusers! They took him literally, when they weren't supposed to do so. Mark 14:58 shows us that they understood Jesus' reference to the temple as an attack on the literal temple, and this charge of destroying the temple led to Jesus' conviction. Again, context, context, context, along with grammar and linguistic analysis is necessary to arrive at an accurate exegesis of the biblical text. This is WHY most Protestants reject the doctrine that the literal flesh and blood of Christ is to be found in the Eucharist, although some Protestants, such as Lutherans, hold to a variation of the doctrine. More important to me is the Roman Catholic doctrine that the Eucharist is a real, not a symbolic sacrifice. Hebrews 10:12 says "But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time ONE sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God." Jesus was a high priest, and he was the sacrifice for atonement. The one and only sacrifice was COMPLETED at Calvary (John 19:30), whereas classic Roman Catholicism denies this.

In Roman Catholic theology, the sacrifice of Calvary, Christ's crucifixion, is never over, but is offered perpetually in the Eucharist. To Protestants, this is blasphemy. The Eucharist is a memorial meal to celebrate the Lord's death until he returns. The Lord's death, however, is past history, never to occur again. For many Protestants, this is the REAL reason why they reject the Roman Catholic understanding of the Eucharist. The literal presence in the bread and wine is a secondary issue. The sacrifice of Jesus, however, is a primary issue which we can't compromise.

-Richard Lee

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